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Syria Today – Fighting Resumes in Deir-ez-Zor; Lebanese Delegation to Visit Damascus

Your daily brief of the English-speaking press on Syria.
Syria Today – Fighting Resumes in Deir-ez-Zor; Lebanese Delegation to Visit Damascus

On Monday evening, renewed confrontations broke out in the eastern province of Deir-ez-Zor between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Arab tribal militias who were once their allies. This conflict resulted in civilian casualties, with drone strikes and gunfire being the primary causes of injury and loss of life. Simultaneously, the Lebanese government has made the decision to dispatch an official delegation to Damascus. Their objective is to engage in discussions concerning the escalating situation along the Syrian-Lebanese border, where there has been a recent surge in the influx of illegal refugees.

Deadly Deir-ez-Zor clashes erupt again in eastern Syria

Clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Arab tribal militias formerly allied with them erupted again on Monday evening in the eastern province of Deir-ez-Zor with civilians injured and killed by drone strikes and gunfire, New Arab reported.

An elderly individual was killed and two men and three children were injured due to SDF strikes on the banks of the Euphrates River near Abu Hamam, according to local sources.

The sources told The New Arab’s sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that the clashes broke out again last night as the SDF attempted to enter the Al-Latwa area of the town of Dhiban in eastern Deir-ez-Zor. The attack was halted after the SDF sustained casualties. 

The SDF previously said it had taken full control of Dhiban but tribal militias opposed to them are still active in Al-Latwa.

The sources added that an unidentified drone, believed to belong to the SDF, reportedly targeted a civilian vehicle near the Euphrates River in Abu Hamam, wounding two civilians. 

They also said that two children were injured by alleged SDF gunfire in the town of Darnaj. Other reports said the source of the gunfire was regime-controlled Al-Asharah, just across the Euphrates river.

Amid the ongoing clashes between the SDF and the Arab tribal militias, the Assad regime-allied Palestinian Liwa Al-Quds militia said that two of its members had been killed during confrontations with Islamic State group militants in Deir-ez-Zor.

Iran Criticizes its ‘Meager’ Share in Rebuilding of Syria

Iranian PM Hossein-Ali Haji-Deligani criticized Friday his country’s “meager” share in the rebuilding of war-torn Syria in spite of Tehran and Damascus signing agreements on expanding cooperation between them, Asharq al-Awsat reported.

He said: “Despite the support accorded to the Syrian government and people during the war, we have received a meagre share in the reconstruction.”

Several countries are competing to be part of post-war Syria’s economic future, reported Iran’s Fars news agency, highlighting the criticism by Iranian experts and MPs that Tehran’s role in the process has been “weak”.

Deligani remarked: “The countries that were the main cause of the Syrian war, now have the initiative in rebuilding the country.”

“Western countries and their regional agents who backed ISIS are today reaping the lion’s share of Syria’s reconstruction,” he added.

“We have so far not done enough in playing a central role in Syria’s reconstruction,” stressed the MP.

He made his statements a week after Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian paid a visit to Damascus where he urged the Syrian government to implement bilateral agreements between their countries that were inked when Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited back in May.

Raisi’s two-day visit was the first by an Iranian president since the eruption of the war in 2011.

During his trip, officials signed long-term strategic cooperation covering numerous fields, such as railways, civil aviation, oil and free trade. They formed eight specialized committees in investment, trade, industry, oil and agriculture.

U.S. Seeks to Repatriate Family of 10 Americans From Camps in Syria

The State Department is working to repatriate a family of 10 American citizens stranded in Syria, where they are among the tens of thousands of people effectively imprisoned in desert camps and detention centers from the war against the Islamic State, The New York Times quoted officials.

The transfer would make them the largest group brought back to the United States from northeastern Syria, where they are being held by a Kurdish-led militia. The American government has repatriated 40 such citizens since 2016 — 25 children and 15 adults, according to the State Department.

The group consists of Brandy Salman, 49, and nine of her children, who range in age from about 6 to about 25, and all appear to have been born in the United States. Ms. Salman’s husband, who was from Turkey, seems to have taken her and their children into Islamic State territory around 2016 and was apparently later killed.

The detention centers in northeastern Syria typically hold the families of suspected Islamic State militants. Much remains unclear about the family’s interactions with the group before the collapse of the so-called caliphate.

That ambiguity, and the apparent delay in identifying them as Americans, reflects a broader, festering and complicated problem: Many countries have left their own citizens stranded in these camps, out of fear and uncertainty. One result is that tens of thousands of children are growing up there under brutal circumstances and are vulnerable to radicalization.

According to the account of one of the Salman children, a son who is now about 17, the family was taken into custody at Baghuz, where the Islamic State’s last major enclave fell in early 2019. Camp guards separated him from his mother several years ago under a disputed policy of removing adolescent boys.

It is not clear what the authorities intend to do with Ms. Salman, or where and how her family will be resettled. Some adults who travelled to Syria to join ISIS and were later brought back to the United States have faced prosecution on charges like conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism, while others have not.

Official Lebanese delegation to visit Damascus

The Lebanese government decided to send an official delegation to Damascus to discuss the situation on the Syrian-Lebanese border through which the influx of illegal refugees has increased recently, North Press reported.

“The delegation that will visit Damascus in the coming days, will be led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lebanon, Abdallah Bouhabib, and will include representatives from the military and security forces”, according to Lebanese official media.

Through negotiations with the Syrian side, the delegation is expected to devise a joint action plan to prevent the illegal entry of refugees into Lebanese territory, which has raised concerns of the Lebanese side due to the recent influx of thousands.

Issam Charafeddine, Lebanon’s caretaker minister of the displaced, expressed the Lebanese government’s deep concern about the increasing influx of refugees and acknowledged that this problem cannot be solved unilaterally without coordination with the Syrian authorities.

He mentioned a plan for a gradual return of refugee families to their homeland to be resumed by the end of 2023.

However, the dire economic conditions and the situation in Syria have hindered the process.

The Lebanese authorities had already taken steps to return the Syrian refugees in 2022 according to a plan of returning 15,000 people per month, but that operation faced international criticism because the country is still unsafe.

A day before, the Lebanese Council of Ministers convened and issued a series of stringent decisions concerning the Syrian refugees. The council directed relevant administrations and ministries to take appropriate actions within their jurisdiction to address the issue.

Najib Mikati, Prime Minister of Lebanon, warned during a government meeting that the increasing number of refugees from Syria poses a serious threat to the Lebanese state.

Little Amal, the giant 10-year-old Syrian refugee puppet, is coming to Philadelphia Wednesday

“She’s become such an incredible, powerful symbol for the best that we can be in our culture,” Taibi Magar, co-artistic director of Philadelphia Theatre Company, said of Little Amal.

“We’re coming to the U.S. because the U.S. is a country that’s been created by forced immigration and displacement — these are the ingredients of U.S. history,” said Amir Nizar Zuabi, Little Amal’s artistic director.

She’s a 10-year-old refugee girl from Syria. Since 2021, she has walked over 6,000 miles in 15 different countries. And she’s a giant, 12-foot-tall puppet.

Little Amal has become a global symbol of the plight of refugees and their human rights since she was first created two years ago. And this week, she’ll be walking through Philadelphia and welcomed to the City of Brotherly Love by numerous local organizations.

The idea for Little Amal came on the heels of an internationally reclaimed play The Jungle, which told the story of the thousands of refugees sheltering at a camp in Calais, France. The powerful production took off globally, but the producers still felt there was more to be done.

“Many of us spent some time with just a few of the millions of people who had made these very long journeys… And they had done so because they had no option,” said David Lan, a producer on Little Amal’s team. “As theatre people, we were thinking, how do people respond to that kind of experience? We came up with creating one of those journeys.”

And so Little Amal was born, derived from a minor but powerful character in “The Jungle.” In the process of creating her, the producers and artistic directors had three ideas: the puppet should make a journey, she should be cared for by artists in the towns she passes through — “She’s going to be hungry, she’s going to be tired,” Lan explained — and she should be welcomed by those towns’ political leaders.

Thinking she may have found a clue towards a new home, Amal walks through the streets of South Philadelphia, finding dangers and delights along the way.

In partnership with Theatre Exile, Friends of Columbus Square Park, South Philadelphia Library, State Senator Nikil Saval, and Councilmember Mark Squilla.

‘We don’t dare go out at night: In crisis-hit Lebanon, Syrian refugees are kidnapped for ransom

This article sheds light on a distressing and complex issue in Lebanon involving the abduction of Syrian refugees for ransom, amidst the backdrop of the country’s economic and security crises. Below are the key points raised in the analysis. 

  1. **Vulnerable Syrian Refugees**: The article highlights the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who are already facing immense challenges due to the conflict in Syria. They have become targets for criminal networks operating along the Lebanese-Syrian border.
  2. **Kidnappings on the Rise**: Kidnappings of Syrian refugees have been on the rise, particularly in border regions. Criminal networks, some of which have affiliations with Hezbollah and the Assad regime, take advantage of the dire economic situation to demand ransoms from victims’ families.
  3. **Terror and Extortion**: The victims often endure harrowing experiences during their captivity, facing threats and violence, as well as the psychological trauma of their ordeal. The article mentions instances of torture and threats to the safety of family members back in Syria.
  4. **Lebanese Security Forces**: While the Lebanese army is trying to combat kidnappings, its efforts are hindered by the social and economic complexities underlying the issue. The security forces have had some successes in freeing abductees but face significant challenges.
  5. **Refugees’ Lack of Protection**: Syrian refugees in Lebanon have little hope of justice. They are vulnerable to hate campaigns, arrests, deportations, and expulsions by the Lebanese state, as highlighted by the Access Centre Human Rights (ACHR).
  6. **Assad Regime’s Influence**: Smugglers involved in these kidnappings often have ties to the Assad regime, the Syrian army, Hezbollah, and other political parties. They frequently target political opponents of the Syrian government living in Lebanon.
  7. **Smuggling Networks**: The article mentions the involvement of smuggling clans, such as the Zeaiter clan, known for their involvement in the drug trade and other illegal activities. These clans have significant armed militias and can act with relative impunity.
  8. **Psychological Impact**: The experiences of Syrian refugees who have been abducted leave lasting psychological scars. Many live in constant fear, which limits their mobility and impacts their mental health.
  9. **Need for Investment**: While security measures are crucial, addressing the root causes of this issue requires social and economic investment in the border regions. Creating opportunities for vulnerable communities could reduce their susceptibility to criminal activities.
  10. **Anonymity for Safety**: The article protects the identity of the interviewees by using pseudonyms, highlighting the ongoing risks faced by those who have been abducted and their families.

In summary, this article exposes the alarming issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon falling victim to kidnappings by criminal networks with political affiliations. It highlights the need for a multi-faceted approach involving security measures, social support, and international cooperation to address the crisis and protect the vulnerable refugee population.

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